The Carolina Union Activities Board and Ebony Readers Onyx Theatre will help celebrate the opening with tonight’s presentation of Def Jam poet Shihan Van Clief.
The office of the executive director for the arts announced the renovation in August in order to make the space available for student groups.
“We certainly heard the need for a student performance space over the past couple of years,” said Michael Johnson, director of operations for the office of the executive director for the arts. “So, we are trying to get this building open, at least temporarily.”
Repairs on the original home of what is now the PlayMakers Repertory Company
include new interior paint and new carpeting and seating. Updates were made to the entry and aisles and a raised platform was installed for disabled seating to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The building, built in 1850 as a library and later transformed into a lecture hall and theater, received new sound and lighting systems and a new curtain, but use of the backstage area remains limited.
In 2006, the theater’s exterior was repainted to its original color in the first stage of a two-step renovation.
Original budget proposals for a complete interior renovation were as high as $8 million.
But the economic recession of 2008 halted renovations, leaving the theater vacant until this summer.
Rather than see the building sit unused, the offices of the executive vice chancellor and provost
and the executive director for the arts came up with a smaller sum — $225,000 — to make the space accessible.
The latest renovation did not focus on returning the space to its original state, Hillis said.
“There was little restoration work, but nothing was removed,” Hillis said. “It’s all there.”
The lobby’s basement bathrooms were not covered in the limited budget and will be not be available for use during performances.
Patrons will be directed to a nearby building to use the bathroom.
Neither Hillis nor Johnson suggested a time frame for the eventual extensive remodel. Hillis said it could take up to 10 years. CUAB
and other student groups said they are eager to use the space.
“We are always working to find new spaces for groups to perform,” said Temi Duro-Emanuel, performing arts chair for CUAB
Harry Kaplowitz, marketing director for the office of the executive director for the arts, said students will be able to book the space online — the same way that Memorial and Gerard Halls are reserved.
“(Playmakers) has a great vibe,” Duro-Emanuel said. “It’s still old despite the new renovations.”
And though the space still needs work, officials said that the recent repairs are enough for now.
“It was really dark and dusty,” Hillis said. “It looked like no one had been in there in for years, so anything was an improvement.”
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